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Live Location Recording - Hard Drives vs. Subwoofer Vibration

Discussion in 'Recording' started by tmarkov1, Dec 1, 2012.

  1. tmarkov1

    tmarkov1 Active Member

    So, I preface my topic, here, by saying that I totally know that running USB 2 WesternDigital MyBooks for 24+ track recordinug is not the most efficient and reliable method... But It works very well. I have noticed however that when I use these drives in the club I work in, Cubase will sometimes stop recording with an error stating "Recording stopped: too many tracks recording." and either when the dynamics of the band change, or I turn the bass down in the house, the problems totally disappear. I have decoupled the drive from anything firmly planted on the ground, Such as the recording rack, or the table its on, by folding a sweatshit or a large towel up and placing it below the drive. Problem solved. Is there a professional version of a folded up sweatshirt that I can use to acoustically isolate my recording drive from a surface that is radiating low frequency vibrations? I understand how the intensity of the low end is affecting the read/write heads on these little buggers. Anyway... If you ever have issues with subwoofer vibration making your DAW overload on disk buffer, get yourself an XLrg tshirt or a jacket and rest your drives on that. Not right on the hard top racks that are on wheels, resting on the ground. I hope there is something out there to suit my issue.

    Thanks for reading and I hope to hear some insight and ideas. Thanks

    Tavon Markov
    Horizontal Experiment Productions
    Erie, PA
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Yeah, modern high-density rotating drives do that. There are YouTube videos of technicians shouting at disk drives that are running read/write tests showing the error rates shoot up when they are shouted at. The subject has also been well worked over at the Yahoo HD24 group.

    It's one big advantage of solid-state drives that they are immune to mechanical vibration, but you have to find one with a fast enough write speed if you want to record large numbers of tracks.

    BTW, is Horizontal Experiment what you do professionally or what you try out in your spare time?
  3. Audiofreek

    Audiofreek Active Member

    Even if it doesn't stop the recording process,the error correction going on,is through the roof.I have found that if you don't isolate your drives in some way(I just used a chunk of foam if I have to be in the same room as the band)the quality of your audio will suffer.You could mount your gear in a vibration isolated road rack,but solid state drives would be imune to this issue,as they have no moving parts,so for the price of the road case....
    One of the first live recordings I ever did,I had a desk top (2nd drive intalled inside the tower)sitting on the floor of the stage.The recording never stopped,but when I got home to mix it,I could hear that the audio was very grainy(like it was coming through a virtual screen door),oops.
    It's good that you brought this issue up,I've never seen it discussed on any forums.
  4. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    I've had pretty good results isolating standalone CD recorders and similar drives with a small piece of wedge-type foam.


    Points up it's still dense enough to support a typical drive or recorder.
  5. bishopdante

    bishopdante Guest

    If you want something solid state with a better write-rate than an SSD, these guys HyperOs OneClick - Hardware have got DDR-based drives. Filled up with 8GB sticks it'll take 64GB, enough for most sessions.
  6. tmarkov1

    tmarkov1 Active Member

    I feel that the audio quality has never suffered from the vibration. But then again I am a mixing engineer, not a scientist. I don't know if the bit have been modified by my thunderous bass. At any rate... You guys all think that something as dense as acoustic foam is enough to decouple a drive from the surface? No one has any better idea like a silicone suspension box or anything? SSD Drives are a beautiful thought, but due to the size vs. price issue, I would only be able to own 2 or 3 of these drives. To put my recording volume in to perspective, I have 2x 2TB hard disks filled with live shows just from this year alone. I would need to record to an SSD drive, and then dump that to a platter drive for editing and mixing and archival purposes. That's a lot of data transfer time. Why can't SSD drives (being the better alternative) simply cost less? What gives? All the good stuff is so expensive. I think I am going to stick with Western Digital platter drives for as long as I can buy the media. When they become discontinued (or illegal haha) THEN, I will research other options. Although - my new MacBook Pro probably would appreciate a nice new SSD drive. Does anyone here know if the SSD drives run hotter in temperature than a 7200 RPM disk?

    And yes, Horizontal Experiment Productions is my full time job (of sorts). I also work part time in a pizza joint. My main job is working as the FOH engineer at a music venue in Erie, PA called the crooked i. 2 years and 9 months I will have been there. So, about 70% of my time in any given month is spent with Music and Production. The other half is divided between my beautiful lady, my other job and sleep. Pretty much in that order. Sleep gets the least amount of priority. I am sure most of you can relate.
  7. bishopdante

    bishopdante Guest

    There's a *lot* of computer science involved in ironing out the errors from the hardware level to the software level. If everything is working perfectly, you'll just see a slow-down of the successful data transfer rate rather than hearing nasties. I haven't heard nasties as the result of a hard drive misbehaving since maybe 1998, maybe 2000. An HD is full of holes, bad sectors, anyway. Without a lot of advanced error-catching behaviour, fault-tolerance, they'd be unusably dodgy at recording data. Drives are tested at the factory and binned for how reliable they are, how many bad sectors etc. Server-rated drives are the ones that for whatever reason work more accurately. Some get recycled instantly and never make it out the door... officially, but if you go to the right place in China, you can see guys taking those apart and "reconditioning them", 10 bad drives will turn into 6 or 7 OK-ish ones. Those drives have a no-name sticker and cost about $15.
  8. Audiofreek

    Audiofreek Active Member

    Yeah,it probably was around 2000ish when I had those issues on a WD drive (one has to consider the level of my ignorance at that time),but if hard drive error rates can be easliy measured when someone yells at them,perhaps being cautious about subs,and ambient audio levels while tracking in the control room as well is not a bad idea.
    I have my towers sitting in a foam supported rack,and don't use my sub in the control room when I track.
    Like most people,I don't notice issues with hard disk errors and audio quality,but that doesn't mean that they aren't there,and I'm just not picking up on them.

    Now that the current trend for project studios to have one large room for tracking and mixing,vibration isolation for hard disks may be a wise choise,even if there is not alot of sub bass present.
  9. bishopdante

    bishopdante Guest

    Who knows which frequencies in particular are most deleterious to the performance of hard drives? Transmitted via the air, or via mechanical transmission? Ultrasonics? 1kHz? I guess somebody at the hard drive companies would be in a position to find that out or already knows... somebody could (probably already does) design drives which are extra resiliant to vibration. I actually own one that I bought second hand off a liquidator of weird computer parts that's a military aircraft drive, and that's definitely got fewer issues when you shake it / drop it. It's only 4GB, though, had it for ages, it's proper un-killable.

    Regarding mechanical transmission, high amplitude/excursion is going to be the killer, and in terms of audible dB levels, low bass will have the more excursion, but I'd espect that the frequencies that would be inclined to cause trouble from transmission via the air would be more optimally scaled to the size of the drive, so about the 500Hz/2kHz type range... shouting is probably more effective. It's a guess, though. Certainly mechanically isolating spinning platter drives is going to cut down the mechanical transmission. Whether they're placed flat or on their sides, or end-on, either with the actuating arm at the top or the bottom might have an influence, also. There's also the issue of (typically apple) laptops having a "sudden motion sensor", which can be set off by loud sound. You can disable that via terminal.

    I know that you can get these sort of fridge cabinet things that soundproof your computer successfully. I really don't like computer fans raising the noise floor, anyhow. If using the room for recording, you *have* to get rid of the fan noise. Really, computers ideally live in a machine room whether you're splitting the control room and recording room, or doing it all in one place.

    Can also go the network route, have your storage somewhere else in the building running off a server of some sort. Depends on the budget how many tracks at what latency you'll get, but that route is (if you're prepared to pay the top dollar for industry strength SAN) the fastest storage in existence.

    Perhaps it'd be possible to make something out of a thermos flask (vacuum kills sound transmission)? Would need to figure out a heatsink etc. Bit crazy to DIY/mod, but somebody could probably design a vacuum-isolated hard drive enclosure.

    There's probably some sort of arrangement with hanging the drive off a bunch of big rubber bands, hair-bands or bungees, similar to a microphone's suspension mount, which would do the trick. Dunno if that's necessary in a control room situation, but if you've got a lot of 18 inch bins in the place, or monitor at insanely deafening volumes, certainly worth the £5 in materials and half an hour it'd take to rig something up.
  10. bishopdante

    bishopdante Guest

    Here's some ruggedised aerospace drives for reference https://commerce.honeywell.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/NECategoryDisplay?storeId=10651&catalogId=10251&langId=-4&categoryId=53979&cacheId=1000000000000001
  11. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    I have written about and produced a video on YouTube about modifying an Alesis HD 24. These of also had similar recordings stop issues from high-level external sound sources. Part of the problem is just the resonant frequency of the hard disk drive case itself. So this modification included a soft silicone rubber jacket, placed around the hard drive. And to also ensure more reliable connectivity between the cheap Chinese multi-pin connectors which suck.

    While SSD's make a lot more sense than these mechanical contraptions, they are not exactly quite yet ready for prime time. Why aren't they less expensive? Why isn't gasoline less expensive? Why can't you buy a new car for under $3000 today? It used to be that when production was increased due to demand, it also lowered prices. But that was back in a time when people were not concerned about instant greed and profits. That came about in a time when people cared about the quality of their products. We're living in a new age. All of that is down the old poop shoot.

    I've converted one of my computers to a SSD. While I like its performance, there are still obviously some quirks to work out yet. And they also have a finite read/write life, which is less than any mechanical disk drive. Plus, they may not retain information as long as a mechanical disk drive disc? There is no perfect recording media. There wasn't any perfect media when we had $36,000.24 track analog machines. But those never stopped regardless of sound pressure level around him because they were built like tanks and quite literally, mine weighed over 500 pounds. So low-frequency vibration won't disturb something with that kind of mass. Remember, hard disk drives, while their recording to a hard magnetized disc, the head never touches the disk. It rides on a very tiny couple of molecules of air. When it touches the disk, it's trashed. Had it ever occurred to you that these machines aren't really designed to be in anything other than a control room environment? So your trying to make it work under conditions it was never designed to work under. What don't you understand about that? That's why it's considered a professional piece of equipment. Not designed for idiot amateurs that don't know what they're doing.

    So what to do? Well ya get a big chunk of packing/shipping foam. You cut out a hole in which to mount your hard disk drive in and/or entire computer. And then you put the foam lid on top of it. And then you sit on it. Please don't rotate. And that should solve your problems. Though you might need a good supply of toilet paper?

    Why do you think God created professionals like me?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  12. bishopdante

    bishopdante Guest

    However, I've found that hard drives (and computers) can get pretty hot. It's important to take heat into account, doesn't encasing them in silicone or foam get cooking? I suppose if you use the right silicone, perhaps not.

    Back in 2008 I had a portable RAID that I'd built in a cushioned laptop case with packing foam, and I quit doing that when I took a drive out after running it for an hour, and it was so hot I couldn't hold it in my hand.
  13. bishopdante

    bishopdante Guest

    That makes quite a bit of sense.

    One could probably cable-tie some chunky heat-sinks to a drive using thermal grease, or pads of thermal silicone, which would cut down the resonances, and then suspension mount it.
  14. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    The silicon rubber shock mount, only provides for a well ventilated frame around the drive. It does not completely iencase the drive. The modification I posted on YouTube for the HD 24 actually gets that hard drive out of that stuffy little plastic hard drive cassette. It mounted above the hard drive garage for even greater cooling airflow around that now, built-in, internal hard drive. So I actually believe that this modification is further benefited by the greater ambient cooling of the hard drive.

    No doubt about it, hard drives run hot. And as we all know, heat kills everything. So, yeah, sticking your drives in a tight foam enclosure, will impede the air circulation. So, yeah, it'll run hot but at least it might still keep running? And in that respect, perhaps, yeah, you could put yourself together and external USB hard drive enclosure and just stick a SSD in the portable box. Will it last as long as a mechanical hard drive? Who the hell knows? Everything today is not only disposable, it all has a very short half-life before it nuclear decays. A.k.a. Chinese meltdown. So maybe that SSD may not last as many years as a mechanical hard drive? But then who cares? Something better will replace it next year. And then everybody will want them. Will they ever exceed the capacity of our current absurdly large hard drives? Not for a few more years. So you get to start experimenting. And then ya can report back to us in the morning?

    6 AM already again? And I thought I was enjoying the movie??
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  15. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    This is a great thread, and comes at a good time. I'm doing a live remote in Cleveland on Dec 15, my first ever using a PC. (I used to do live remotes years ago when we were still tracking to tape)...

    The good news is that the show is just one guy and an acoustic guitar/vocal, so it's not as if kick drums and bass guitars are involved.

    Still, I'm going to look into a way to try to isolate the drive from vibration as much as possible.
  16. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    With that type of gig, I can't imagine that you would have any problems using standard drives, and you should not need to take any special acoustic isolation measures. If you are capturing the tracks from an audio interface on to a PC or laptop, it's always worth using a separate dedicated drive for audio so that its heads are not shuttling around in response to operating system neuroses.
  17. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Good advice. Thank you!

    I'm also looking into a redundant safety backup. I have a buddy who has an Alesis HD24 that I may borrow to serve as a backup to the DAW.
  18. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Several of the regulars on this forum record to HD24s or HD24XRs for backup while recording via an audio interface to a computer. However, it's not something I usually do for a live session - I just record to HD24XRs and leave out all the uncertainty associated with the computer route.

    Note that HD24 analog recording needs line-level signals, so if you are on the redundancy ticket, you would have to use mic splitters into external mic pre-amps followed by balanced Y-cables feeding both the HD24 and the line inputs of the audio interface. Alternatively, if you are happy relying on the FOH board's pre-amps, you can take direct outs or even insert sends from the mixer to the recording gear instead of using splitters and external pre-amps.

    There are a large number of ways of patching up this sort of setup depending on the degree of redundancy you want versus ease of operation and (inevitably) the cost.
  19. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    I'm certainly with Boswell on this. I used to work for NBC and we would do everything on a redundant level. Y patch cords are cheap. Though you can inadvertently set up a ground loop that might cause you some fairly prominent 60 Hz hum? So also bring a couple of those 3 into 2 AC electric ground lifters. Especially if things cannot be patched all on a balance level. And most direct outputs and/or inserts are mostly unbalanced.

    So while I deliver and usually mix for stereo, my redundant roll is usually multi-track.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  20. bishopdante

    bishopdante Guest

    Hmm, isn't there an issue with a fragile Table of Contents issue with the RTOS those things run, where the database of drive contents or drive header is re-written constantly, the failure of which will basically kill the whole drive if there's any glitches, drive errors or power interruption, and there's no recovery software for dealing with those RTOS formats? There's also the issue of having to use PATA/IDE drives in those things? I also seem to remember that the now-discontinued converter ICs they used in those originally cost about $1.60 for 4 channels, so not exactly the smoothest sound quality.

    Somebody should really do a Linux build which turns a computer into something similar to RADAR (which is actually BeOS, so a low-latency media UNIX).

    If budget is not an issue, RADAR, Nagra or SADiE is probably the most reliable option for location recording.


    The reason why SSDs are so expensive for their size is also what makes them unsuitable for using as recording drives. They're really meant for jobs where the majority of the work they do is reading, eg: loading applications / system files.

    The underlying structure of an SSD involves a lot of error-checking, and the capacity of the drive is maybe around 10x to 16x the size that's available to the OS, because the number of writes that can be done to a sector before that sector breaks down permanently is very limited compared to a platter drive. Spreading out the load across a bunch of sectors and verifying which sectors have responded to the write is the underlying process. SSDs also shrink over time, as more and more sectors bite the dust. If the majority of the work a drive is doing is read, then they're ideal and probably far more reliable, but if the job is write-intensive, should use platters or a RAM disk.

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